2020 was (properly, as of writing, nonetheless is) fairly a loopy yr, and that craziness additionally had a big impact on the tech business. The web is steadily turning into extra divided throughout international locations, the commerce warfare that utterly modified Huawei’s cellphone enterprise is raging on, and the worldwide pandemic affected each {hardware} and software program launch cycles — you would possibly do not forget that Chrome and Chrome OS updates had been briefly paused when everybody began working from dwelling.

Regardless of all that, there have been additionally a number of good issues taking place in tech: Foldables have matured and are headed for mainstream, finances telephones do not suck anymore, Android has obtained tons of useful options, and Chrome and Chrome OS have additionally benefitted from a number of nice developments. Here is a set of 5 of our favourite Chrome options and 5 of our favourite Chrome OS options from 2020. It is from an entire checklist, however these are a few of our highlights.


Tab grouping enhancements

Tab teams have been out there on Chrome for some time, however they received so significantly better in 2020. On desktop computer systems, they’ve change into collapsible, so when you’re the kind of one who leaves dozens upon dozens of tabs open at a time, you is likely to be a fan. On Chrome OS, a tab search function augments tab grouping even additional, and I would not be stunned if we received it on different platforms in 2021.

Higher PDF viewer

Chrome’s built-in PDF viewer has at all times been handy but additionally extremely restricted. That is modified with Chrome 87, launched in November. At first look, it does not look too totally different from the earlier model, but it surely’s received a brand new navigation pane hidden in a brand new hamburger menu on the left for miniature pages and a desk of content material. There’s additionally a two-page view, and the zoom buttons are actually seen always. The brand new viewer remains to be rolling out, so if it is not out there to you but, you would possibly must activate it first. The PDF reader stays restricted to the desktop — there’s nonetheless no viewer for the cellular model of the browser. We’d quickly even get an choice to save lots of edited paperwork.

Improved security and privateness

There’s not one single security or privateness function that actually stands out by itself, however all taken collectively, it is clear that Google made some strides in 2020. Chrome 86 launched a function that routinely screens your saved passwords for leaks and can warn you to alter it ought to it change into public. The corporate obfuscates your credentials within the course of to make sure they’re secure on its servers. There’s additionally new Enhanced Protected Searching protections that do their finest that can assist you towards phishing and different malware. In a best-case state of affairs, you may by no means know that these options have made it into the browser since you’re not visiting harmful websites, but it surely’s good to have them in case one thing goes awry.

There are additionally enhancements to cookie administration — you may block third-party cookies rather more granularly these days, which ought to assist with each your privateness and your safety. And that can assist you see at a look which extensions have full entry to your web sites, Google launched a brand new extensions interface that divides your add-ons into two classes: These with full entry and people who do not want it.

Useful resource-intense advert blocking

Whereas many nonetheless dread the total deployment of the Manifest V3 API that spells dangerous information for content material blockers, Chrome itself received into the advert blocking enterprise. By default, the browser now blocks resource-intense adverts that leech an excessive amount of of your treasured knowledge or are too demanding in your CPU. As somebody who works for an ad-supported medium, I believe this can be a nice compromise and would possibly make advert networks rethink what they’re pushing on individuals’s units. (In fact, it’s also possible to determine to do away with adverts on lots of of reports web sites together with our personal by subscribing to Scroll).

Native file system entry and higher drag and drop

Everytime you wished to edit a file in your pc through an internet site, the web site used to should depend on plugins like Java or ActiveX. With Chrome 86, launched in October, that is change into a factor of the previous. Web sites can natively entry your file system with a brand new API. That is nice information for on-line picture or textual content editors. There are quite a few security precautions constructed into the system, so that you needn’t fear a few web site accessing your homework folder or one thing.

You will not run into this anymore — photos now open in new tabs by default.

A small however very welcome change in file administration is the up to date drag-and-drop conduct. If you drag-and-drop a file into an current web site but it surely does not help importing that approach, the web site would usually make approach for a preview of that file previously, making you lose any unsaved adjustments. Now the file simply opens in a brand new tab.

Chrome OS

Overhauled pill mode

The brand new pill UI that got here to Chrome OS in model 81 is arguably the most important visible change to the working system this yr. When your Chromebook helps a pill mode, you may have already got seen the improved gestures that really feel lots like these Google launched with Android 10 — swipe from the left aspect of the show to return, swipe as much as go dwelling, and extra gestures. There are additionally smaller tweaks to the UI, like larger contact targets and tab previews.

Information app improve

The brand new Information app is one other important visible improve that got here to Chrome OS this July. The brand new model ditches the blue and grey design of the outdated file supervisor in favor of an all-white interface that is extra consistent with Google’s latest UI pointers. Third-party cloud companies additionally lastly gained the flexibility to hook into the system and might now let you add, obtain, and edit information saved to them proper in your Chromebook. Dropbox has already added help, however OneDrive remains to be dragging its toes final time I checked.

Overview display enhancements

Hooking up your Chromebook to an exterior monitor was a fairly awkward expertise, however in July, we received some enhancements on that entrance. Chrome OS 84 made it doable to pull and drop home windows on a second monitor whereas within the overview display. Now you can additionally customise the refresh price and overscan choices individually, and a extra intuitive UI makes establishing a number of screens easier than ever earlier than. The overview display itself has additionally seen enhancements for single-screen customers: Digital desktops can now be renamed, and you may snap home windows to the perimeters to rapidly enter cut up display.

Main Linux upgrades

2020 had some great things in retailer for many who depend on correct desktop applications on their Chromebooks within the type of Linux apps. The Debian container was up to date from model 9 “Stretch” to 10 “Buster” in March, which comes with an entire slew of up to date packages and additional enhancements (although it’s a must to reinstall the container and begin contemporary to get the replace). In July, Chrome OS 84 additionally launched customized person names and a resizable Linux partition together with a brand new terminal, full with a tabbed interface, theming choices, and extra.

Sideloading Android apps with out Developer mode

Chrome OS has supported Android apps for a very long time, however sideloading had at all times been a problem: you needed to activate Developer Mode, which meant a full wipe, fewer system safety measures, and urgent a key on each boot. That modified with Chrome OS 80, launched in March. It permits you to sideload apps through ADB instructions and the Linux partition. That makes life simpler for these of us who like to have the most recent app updates, and it additionally implies that growing apps on Chromebooks received a little bit extra handy. It is nonetheless a problem to arrange sideloading, and there are some catches, which you’ll be able to examine in our authentic protection.

That is solely a small collection of all the good issues that got here to Chrome OS and Chrome this yr — there’s a lot extra. The brand new backside tab switcher on Android changing Chrome Duet bears mentioning, and it is nice that we will lastly take screenshots in incognito mode once more. The browser additionally makes use of up much less knowledge on Android, and the corporate launched an choice to faucet to outline phrases, which is handy as heck. I additionally just like the addition of icons to the overflow menu, which make it a lot simpler to parse entries.

On Chrome OS, we additionally received a greater Alt+Tab switcher, a Bluetooth battery indicator for peripherals, and quite a few different issues our 2020 workforce addition Kent Duke goes over in nice element. You may also give his articles a spin when you’re curious to see what is likely to be coming to Chrome OS in 2021.

Kent Duke contributed to this text.


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